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Hebcelt stage is set with university support

The festival prides itself in being embedded in our community and its cultural heritage, as well as providing support for emerging talent. So, we are particularly pleased with an initiative this year which ticks these boxes, and strengthens our association with the University of the Highlands and Islands and its students.

For the first time, our acoustic stage is being sponsored by Lews Castle College in Stornoway. Not only does this support our efforts to provide a platform for a wide range of talented people, it also helps raise awareness of the college’s work in developing involvement in culture, music and the arts.

This year it is introducing a night class in music making and also hopes to start a full-time sound production course in September. It is working to create world-class recording and performance spaces on the Uist campus, and a move into sound production at the Stornoway campus will contribute to the music scene on the islands.

The sponsorship allows us to continue and expand the acoustic stage, which we introduced in 2014 and has since become a significant part of the main arena for so many local and visiting artists.

This year’s programme features an eclectic mix of talent.

Fiddle player Ryan Young, winner of the Scots Trad Music Award in 2016 for 'Up and Coming Artist of the Year', is one of a new wave of traditional musicians now gracing the scene. Singer songwriter and musician Zoe Bestel, is still a teenager but has already released an EP and an acclaimed album.

Tristan Horncastle, one of a number of acts from New Brunswick appearing at HebCelt this year, will be making a solo appearance on the acoustic stage, while the festival audience will also get a chance to see young duo Josie Duncan & Pablo Lafuente, finalists in 2017’s Radio 2 Young Folk Awards. Josie is a folk singer and songwriter from Lewis, now living in Glasgow, while Pablo is a guitarist and fiddler from Spain who studied at The National Centre for Excellence in Plockton.

Also emerging from the school of excellence in Plockton are HECLA, a female traditional music trio who started playing together through their involvement with the Fèis movement.

Katee Kross, a singer/songwriter from Bishopbriggs, has supported artists such as Karine Polwart, Barbara Dickson, Dougie Maclean, James Grant and Seasick Steve; Skye-based piper Brighde Chaimbeul won a BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award in 2016; and Skye songwriter Richard Macintyre has been earning critical acclaim for his haunting world of Siiga - a mix of melodies, atmospherics and stories of island life.

Also, Days Are Done, a duo formed just over a year ago, have already released two live EPs, a single and are working on an album. This is their first festival season and will see them performing at both HebCelt and Glastonbury.

It’s a great line-up and worth checking out during Friday and Saturday at the festival.

Our partnership with the college doesn’t end there. We have been working closely with the Highlands and Islands Students Association to encourage more participation in HebCelt.

This year we will be arranging a competition for two lucky students to win tickets to the festival. The association is also helping identify volunteers to help with the running of this year’s event.

Young people are the future of the festival, whether on stage or behind the scenes, and partnerships like these help maintain and develop our links for mutual benefit.